Saturday, October 16, 2010

Calvinism and Arminianism (Part III)

This is the conclusion of my series on Calvinism and Arminianism. If you do not yet know very much about these Christian theologies, each portrait links you to the respective Wikipedia articles.

Now that I've discussed the fundamental issue that I believe the two theologies are trying to address, let me answer three other very critical questions:

Does God hold us accountable for our actions? Calvinism, if taken to an extreme, might be interpreted to teach that what we do doesn't matter. If God decides who is saved and who isn't, then what I do has no bearing on my salvation, and witnessing to others is unnecessary, since their standing at the Judgment was pre-determined before the beginning of time (predestination). However, James' exhortation to bear the fruits of our salvation and Jesus' Great Commission are fully valid and cannot be ignored. No matter what roles election and free will play in salvation, we cannot shirk our responsibilities as children of God.  Jesus said, "It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!" (Luke 17:1).  And of Judas Iscariot, He said, "The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been born" (Matthew 26:24).

Can we ever lose our salvation? If I hear "once saved, always saved" one more time, I think I'm going to hurl. Oops! I just typed it again! Excuse me a sec.... Seriously though, I don't like this term because it suggests that we can do whatever we want, and we'll still be OK.  Add to that pastors and ministers of almost every denomination declaring over and over that "we're all sinners", and any hope of victory all but vanishes.  Of course, we've already established that taking it to that extreme is foolhardy, but it puts us on a slippery slope that I prefer to stay off of.  Anyway, this doctrine is probably most directly derived from John 10:28 ("neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand") and Romans 8:35-39 ("[nothing] shall be able to separate us from the love of God").   If there's enough interest among my readership, I could probably spend an entire post (or two, or three) on this question alone, but for the time being, I want to try to guess how our two theologies would answer.

I think the Calvinist would take us back to election and say that it's really a moot point.  Since salvation is something that was decided before God even gave Adam breath, the elect will bear fruits worthy of repentance and the unsaved (even if they once claimed to be saved) were never actually saved in the first place.  On the other hand, the Arminian would point to free will and state that since we are always free to obey or disobey God, salvation is something that can be refused (through the rebellion of sin) or reclaimed (through the obedience of repentance).  This latter view is what I believe, but I also know that (1) God wants us to be assured of our salvation, and (2) He doesn't want us stuck in an endless rut of sinning and repenting.  That's why I also believe that through the Holy Spirit, He gives us the power to resist sin and live free of its grip.  But that's a topic for another post. :)

And finally, how do the Calvinist and Arminian differ in their Christian walks?  Short answer: they don't... or at least they shouldn't!  Regardless what one believes about election and free will, we have a duty to live by Jesus' two "love commandments", spread the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth, and live each day as if He's returning tomorrow.  The Calvinist and the Arminian both repented of their sins and forsook the things of this Earth for the treasures that no moth or rust can corrupt and which no thief can lay a finger on.  The same Holy Spirit dwells in both of them and gives them reassurance of their salvation.  They both bear the fruits of the Spirit and are a shining light for God wherever they go.  They will both be dressed in robes of white in that Beautiful City, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, singing, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty!"

Doctrinal discussions (among the saved) are good if they edify, but if things get heated, take a step back and remember that you both serve the same mighty God, Whose Holy Spirit dwells in you, and you are brothers and sisters, through the One Who purchased your salvation with His very blood!  Now, who can argue with that???

"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ" (Eph. 4:11-15).


Anonymous said...

Familiar passage indeed...hmm.

Andrew Clarke said...

This is profound, and very interesting reading. I'm in agreement with your conclusion. We can feel safe in God, if we are really committed and seek to live for Him. That way we can't be snatched from His hand. But we should not think once we're saved, we can stop seeking God's ways and to live for Him.